Saturday, August 31, 2013

Being Rob Portman

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) from Ohio has gone from potential vice-president nominee for presidential nominee Mitt Romney to one of the more unfavorable Senators in the country.  What might explain this drop?

In October of 2012, prior to the presidential election between Mitt Romney vs. President Barack Obama, Public Policy Polling found that Senator Portman's favorability was 35/25.  Most of Portman's favorability came from Republicans.  His favorability among Republicans was 62/11.  He was not well known among independent voters, owning a 28/23 rating.  Democrats did not support Portman, giving him a 15/39 favorability rating.

Fast forward to last week.  His overall favorability rating was 29/32.  Overall this is not a giant swing.  We're talking about an overall swing of about 16 points in net favorability.  But since this is the only state that matters in presidential election, we'll take a closer look at it.  Among Republicans, his main supporter, his favorability became 45/22.  With independents, we're looking at a huge decline, all the way to 28/44.  With Democrats, who never supported Portman, it fell to 16/50.  What we're trying to do is make up for a 26 point slide with Republicans, 21 point slide with independents and 10 point slide with Democrats.  Overall, it will make up for 16 point swing in net favorability.

Component #1: The Vice-Presidential Bump

I think, in terms of why people knew who he was, we can place some blame on the potential vice-presidential bump.  I had not really heard of him until his name was being floated out there as a potential vice-president nominee.  I am not a voter in Ohio, but I imagine that other people had not heard of him either.  Even with a month of publicity, in May of 2012, Public Policy Polling found that Portman's favorability was 31/33, with 36% of people not having a favorable opinion.  Public Policy Polling found that he had the lowest name recognition of the 87 sitting Senators that they polled in their home state.  The name recognition has actually gone down since then but it has affected his overall favorability.

So, let's look at a table.

Date Overall Favorability Total Name Recognition
05/08/12 31/33 64
06/26/12 32/31 63
08/15/12 38/31 69
09/11/12 36/28 64
10/02/12 32/24 56
10/13/12 35/25 60
04/29/13 26/34 60
08/22/13 29/32 61

So, maybe the vice-presidential bump isn't as large as I thought.  But before we conclude that, let's look at some cross-tabs.  For this, we'll just look at the cross-tabs for political party.  So three more tables.  Wooooo!

First, Republicans.

Date Republican Favorability Republican Name Recognition
05/08/12 50/17 67
06/26/12 50/19 69
08/15/12 59/14 73
09/11/12 56/15 71
10/02/12 58/7 65
10/13/12 62/11 73
04/29/13 46/19 65
08/22/13 45/22 67


Date Democratic Favorability Democratic Name Recognition
05/08/12 13/49 62
06/26/12 15/47 62
08/15/12 15/48 63
09/11/12 15/44 59
10/02/12 12/40 52
10/13/12 15/39 54
04/29/13 8/50 58
08/22/13 16/50 66


Date Independent Favorability Independent Name Recognition
05/08/12 29/31 60
06/26/12 35/25 60
08/15/12 49/27 76
09/11/12 41/23 64
10/02/12 27/21 48
10/13/12 28/23 51
04/29/13 24/32 56
08/22/13 28/44 62

Portman had his highest favorability when the majority of Republicans had a favorable or unfavorable opinion about him.  Part of the reason why he had such high name recognition among Republicans during this time was partially due to him campaigning for Mitt Romney throughout the 2012 presidential election.  Portman was an early supporter of Romney and a main person in Romney's campaign throughout Ohio.  Surprisingly, despite this campaign for Romney, Democrats actually supported Portman, comparatively.

So from the potential vice-president bump, this is where we're at in terms of name recognition:
Republicans: -6
Democrats: +12
Independents: +11

In terms of net favorability, this is where we stand:
Republicans: -23
Democrats: -10
Independents: -21

We can give a little credit to the vice-presidential bump.  But obviously, we can't account for all of those swings with this.

Component #2: Background checks

Portman voted against the Manchin-Toomey Amendment.  The Manchin-Toomey Amendment would have expanded background checks by closing the gun show loophole and expanding background checks to private gun sales.  Public Policy Polling commissioned a poll to see how voting against the Manchin-Toomey Amendment affected the favorability from various Senators.

72% of Ohioans support background checks on all gun sales including gun shows and the internet, meanwhile only 21% say that they oppose background checks on all gun sales.  19% of Ohioans say that they are more likely to vote for Portman because of his vote against the Manchin-Toomey Amendment  and 36% say that they are less likely to vote for Portman because of his vote on the Manchin-Toomey Amendment.

87% of Democrats in Ohio support background checks on all gun sales and only 7% say that they do not support background checks.  56% Republicans support background checks and 36% do not support background checks.  73% of independents support background checks and 19% do not support background checks.

7% of Democrats are more likely to vote for Rob Portman because of his vote on background checks.  51% stated that they were less likely to vote for Portman because of background checks.  36% stated that it would make no difference.

32% said that they are more likely to vote for Portman because of the vote on background checks and only 22% say they were less likely to vote for Portman because of his vote on Manchin-Toomey.  40% say that the vote makes no difference.

18% of Independents said that they are more likely to vote for Portman because of his lack of support for background checks.  34% said that they are less likely to vote for Portman because of that vote.  42% of independents say that it makes no difference.

How has that impacted his favorability? Well, it's partially biased because it was immediately after the vote on Manchin-Toomey and may have been impacted by question order.  His favorability fell in the following ways:

Republicans: -24
Democrats: -18
Independents: -13

The biggest fall from Portman was with Republicans.  This is understandable because that is the area where he could have fallen the most.  That's not where it ended, though.

Component #3: Same sex marriage

Semi-recently, Rob Portman announced that not only was his son gay, that he was actually in favor of same-sex marriage.  This may not sit well with certain people.  So, let's take a look at how it affected his favorability.

48% of Ohioans support same-sex marriage and 42% oppose same sex marriage.  This is mainly driven by Democrats in Ohio, as 66% of Democrats support same sex marriage.  Only 20% of Republicans in Ohio support same sex marriage.  Meanwhile, 51% of Independent voters support same sex marriage and 36% oppose.

This combination netted him the following favorability since the background check polls:

Republicans: -4
Democrats: +8
Independents: -8

We can attribute the falling with Republicans and the rise with Democrats could be associated with the support for same sex marriage.

Component #4: Immigration Reform

This is just speculation on my part.  But based on the results of the polls that show that independents are in favor of same sex marriage, for the most part.  We also saw a precipitous drop in the months after the background check poll.  So, what has been the other big issue that has come before Congress?  Immigration reform.  Rob Portman was one of the Republicans in the Senate who was approached by the Gang of Eight to vote in favor of S. 744.  This was slightly publicized in such news sources as Politico and other.  I imagine that this was more politicized in Ohio than other places.  I believe that his non-support of S. 744 cost him some popularity from Independents.

If you take these components together, you'll see why Portman's favorability has fallen.  Portman is not up for re-election until 2016.  He does have a lot of friends in the Senate and in high places.  I wouldn't be surprised if this trend reverses.  

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